Rail Bill Mark-up Postponed, But Advocacy Continues on the Hill

June 10, 2011 Bookmark and Share

A planned mark-up of S. 158, the Surface Transportation Board Reauthorization (STB) Act of 2011, was postponed this week due to a large amount of other business on the Senate Commerce Committee’s schedule.

No firm make-up date has been set, but it is likely the bill will be reviewed at the Committee’s next business meeting, set for July.

The delay gives shippers additional time to talk with Members of the Committee about the importance of the legislation to improving the functioning of the U.S. rail system.

NAWG has been working with rail coalition partners to reach out to Member offices on the bill, which some opponents falsely claim would reregulate railroads.

On Monday, NAWG and 30 other organizations wrote Members of the Commerce Committee expressing support for S. 158 and opposing any amendments that would weaken its effects.

The groups writing reminded Members that S. 158 is identical to S. 2889, which passed through the Commerce Committee by a voice vote in the 111th Congress after having been negotiated between Republicans and Democrats on the Committee in consultation with railroads, shippers and other stakeholders.

S. 158 leaves in place the basic judgments of Congress contained in the Staggers Act of 1980 while addressing the problems of captive rail customers by directing and empowering the STB to be more responsive to them.

“S.158 does not re-regulate the major freight railroads; S.158 does not require prior approval by the Board of any action that does not require prior approval today; and S.158 does not expand the universe of rail rates that are subject to regulatory challenge,” the shippers told Commerce Members.

NAWG will continue to work with coalitions and individually on S. 158. NAWG has asked leaders of its affiliated state associations to call Commerce Committee Members and their local offices on the legislation, and NAWG President Wayne Hurst, a wheat producer from Burley, Idaho, met with a number of Senate offices this week on the issue while in town for another meeting.

For more details of the bill and NAWG’s work on it, please see the story in last week’s Report, also at www.wheatworld.org/?p=4184. Additional details, including the letter sent this week, are at www.wheatworld.org/transportation.